Billy Collins
Poet; Former U.S. Poet Laureate

The Struggle of Writing

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"When you're not writing, there's an anxiety about whether you will ever write again," says Collins.

Billy Collins

One of the most popular living poets in the United States, Billy Collins was born in New York City in 1941. Collins is the author of nine books of poetry, including She Was Just Seventeen (2006), The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems (2005), Nine Horses (2002), and Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001). His work appears regularly in such periodicals as Poetry, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper's Magazine, and has been featured in various textbooks and anthologies, including those for the Pushcart Prize and the annual Best American Poetry series. Between 2001 and 2004, Collins served two terms at the 11th Poet Laureate of the United States. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004. Other honors include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and the first annual Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College in the Bronx, where has taught for over thirty years. Ideas recorded at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival on: 7/4/07

Billy Collins: Well when you’re not writing, there’s an anxiety about whether you will ever write again.  Of all the kinds of writers – well at least compared to playwrights and novelists – poets return to the blank page more frequently.  You know a novel can take you six month or five years to write; but a poem can get done in an afternoon or a couple of days.  And then you’re back to zero and you have to restart from nothing.  And at that point the question comes up, I mean, can you restart?  Can you boot yourself up again, so to speak?  Or was that it?  So that is probably the main anxiety, I think, that goes with poetry writing.  Poetry writing is a heavier exposure to the blank page . . . more regular encounters with blankness.


July 4, 2007